Really, NBC? You’re going to give Heroes another kick at the can? Did anyone responsible for green-lighting this project actually watch the third season of Heroes? It was terrible. Granted that was the year of the writer’s strike, but it doesn’t excuse the nonsense that the series offered once the writers went back to work.
Alas, I could spend a thousand words complaining about the poor choices of network executives. Instead, I’ll offer up my two cents on cancelled shows that are far more deserving of a second chance than Heroes.
What is it – The quintessential post-9/11 conspiracy drama. Set in the eponymous town of Jericho, Kansas, the series explored life in the heartland of America after unknown forces simultaneously nuked every big city in the country.
Why does it deserve another chance – Fans and critics alike praised Jericho for the quality of its writing and acting. After being unceremoniously cancelled at the end of its second season, fans began mailing peanuts to CBS as a show of protest. The network relented, offering a final eight episodes for Jericho to tie up loose ends. The series ended with lines being drawn for a second American Civil War. Now who wouldn’t want to watch a show about that?
What is it – A sci-fi war drama set in the late 21st century, focusing on a squadron of USMC starfighter pilots.
Why does it deserve another chance – Like oh-so-many ambitious and smart series of the 1990s, Space: Above and Beyond found a home on the Fox Network. Its one and only season focused on the grim reality of an interstellar war that very much mirrored the Pacific theatre of WW2. With story arcs that carried over from week to week, SAAB explored themes not often seen on network television; war crimes, torture, discrimination, the military-industrial complex, and PTSD were among the series’ many forays into the darker quarters of war. Sadly, it wasn’t the sort of storytelling that fit in on Fox’s Sunday night line-up. The final episode killed, crippled, and stranded most of the lead characters, setting up a second season that promised to be darker than the first.
What is it – The third series within the Stargate brand. It features a twist on the “lost in space” trope, with a crew attempting to unlock the first mystery of the universe.
Why does it deserve a second chance – SGU took its cues from Battlestar Galactica, offering a ensemble cast, character driven story arcs – as opposed to Stargate SG1’s monster of the week format – and an attempt to generally grow-up the franchise. Unfortunately, this tonal change pissed in the pool of the existing fan base, drawing many ill-founded and unfortunate comparisons to BSG. Despite this fanboy butthurt, SGU successfully managed to offer good SF storytelling while ignoring the more troublesome (low budget) pitfalls of a series set in space i.e. alien worlds that all look like Earth, aliens who all look human, aliens who all speak English, and a dependence on techno-babble to save the day. Its cast also included the likes of Ming Na and Robert Carlyle. The series’ second and final season ended on the mother of all cliff hangers, leaving the cast literally on ice.
What is it – Arguably, the finest, non-computer generated animated series North America ever produced. Exo-Squad was a story of human hubris, witnessing a sub-class of genetically engineered humans, called Neo Sapiens, rising up to conquer their natural-born human masters.
Why does it deserve a second chance – Conceptually, Exo-Squad was meant to be little more than an action figure marketing tool. Instead, it emerged as a powerful war story that was too smart for kids, and by virtue of its animated nature, perceived by adults to be unworthy of their attention. During its two season run, Exo-Squad explored metaphysical concepts of self, invoked the language of appeasement, resistance, and collaboration (real Hannah Arendt sort of material), and regularly framed the Neo Sapiens as a marginalized people. The second season ended with Humans and Neo Sapiens making a tentative peace with the creation of a Neo Sapien homeland.
What is it – A prequel to Tron: Legacy that sees Tron – voiced by the one and only Bruce Boxleitner – forming a resistance movement against CLU’s forces of occupation.
Why does it deserve a second chance – Where Tron: Legacy was little more than a lazy rehash of the original film, Uprising offered a unique view into The Grid. Similar to Exo-Squad, Uprising was at its best when exploring the moral ambiguities of a resistance movement. Though animated, its scenes were often striking for their historical analogues i.e. CLU’s security forces loading undesirable programs in to digital boxcars. A combination of hand drawn and computer generated art offered a visual aesthetic unlike anything else bearing the Tron name. Most importantly, Uprising‘s writing was smart enough navigate the essential anti-climatic problem incumbent upon all prequels, thus creating both tension and a real sense of consequence. Despite a positive reception from fans and critics, Disney cancelled Uprising after a single season for reasons unknown.